Thursday, November 25, 2010

Religion and the Clergy in Joinville's Chronicles

Within his chronicles, Jean de Joinville does not make many frank or direct comments regarding the clergy. He does refer on a number of occasions of having his own priests, which shows that although he is not a religious figure himself that he does have direct connections to the church. Joinville showed great pride one of his priests, John of Voisey who took one eight Saracens in a battle by himself. Joinville almost then brags about the accomplishment of his priest in his chronicle stating that “From that time onwards my priest was well known in the camp, and people pointed him out to one another and said, 'Look! There's my lord of Joinville's priest, who routed eight Saracens.'”1 Joinville pride in his priest's actions demonstrates the reliance and trust that he puts in the clergy, especially those close to him.

Another instance where Joinville specifically mentioned his relationship with the clergy was when he was trying to take control of an Abbey that resided on land that he controlled. After Joinville returned from a crusade overseas, monks at the abbey of Saint- Urban elected two new abbots, but they were rejected by the Bishop. He wanted them to select an abbot of his own choosing- John of Mymeri (who had done an injustice to another abbott close to Joinville).2 Following these proceedings, Joinville took it upon himself to take control of the Abbey from the Bishop and the abbots. His justification was that it resided on the land that he ruled over, therefore it was his for the taking. Unfortunately, this led to the Church excommunicating Joinville. There was a subsequent debate over who controlled the land that the abbey resided on, was it Joinville or the King who was the guardian of the abbey. The abbots wanted the King to be the guardian of the abbey, and not someone for the sole reason that they owned the lands that the building stood on. However, Joinville was adamant that it was he who controlled it.3 King Louis articulated to Joinville that “It may well be that you are lord of the abbey's lands, but that does not mean you have the right to the guardianship of the abbey.”4 Thus, the King decided that this matter was not to go to the courts, and he would take guardianship of the abbey away from Joinville. This incident brings to light, although not explicitly, Joinville's opinions of the clergy. He is very cordial and accepting of the Church, their decisions, and their presence in France- except, when it interferes with his land holdings and areas of control. Joinville does go on crusades for the Church and in the name of religion, but this does not affect his home and property, which it appears he highly covets. Also, he is loyal to clergy who are close to him, but if another member of the clergy were to attack or had wronged those he was loyal to he would do almost anything to stand up for them.

Although Joinville didn't explicitly state his opinion about the clergy, by his writings about King Louis- the King had a strong opinion about religion, the Church, and how to be a good Christian leader. Near the end of the chronicles, Joinville reports how before King Louis died he gave Joinville advice on how live one's life religiously. Louis tells Joinville to make many confessions and to “Listen devotedly to the services of the Holy Church without mocking or making light of them. Pray with both your heart and tongue, especially when the consecration is preformed during the Mass.”5 On a similar note, King Louis instructed Joinville to “Honour and love all the representatives of the Holy Church, and make sure that no one may diminish or deprive them of the gifts and alms offered to them by your ancestors...(also) Beware of embarking on a war against a Christian without long deliberation. If it is necessary to do so, then protect the Holy Church and those who have done no wrong. If wars or disputes arise among your subjects, bring them to peace as quickly as possible.”6 These comments and instructions that King Louis gave Joinville demonstrates that Louis knew that Joinville was a very argumentative person who also was ready to put up a fight for his land and property. Louis warns Joinville of these actions for one should not disrespect the Church or other Christians in a volatile manner. This advice also shows that Louis may have realized that Joinville cares more about his own affairs and less about the church, which is why he tells him directed to listen to the Church and to be a good Christian, for that is the proper way of living ones life. If Joinville already did these thing it would be less likely that King Louis would have given him this advice at the end of his life.

It is evident throughout Joinville's chronicle that he does have a relationship with the Church and the clergy, but it does not appear to be the sole topic for his writings, or the predominant influence in his affairs and life choices. King Louis makes this quite clear at the end of the chronicles, but Joinville is man of his times, and religion was an important factor in society at the time- which helps explain why he went on the crusades. However, there might be other reasons why he “took up the cross,” and those could be in part connected to his relationship with and connection to Louis- who by all accounts looked up to, and whose life is the basis of his chronicle. Thus, it is unclear whether it was chronicling Louis's life, a desire to protect his lands for incoming foreigners, or a devotion to Christianity that drove him to become a crusader.

1Jean de Joinville and Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades (New York: Penguin Classics, 2008), 211.

2Ibid., 314.

3Ibid., 315.

4Ibid., 316.

5Ibid., 330.

6Ibid., 332.

King and Saint: The Two Faces of Louis

Joinville’s Crusade – Royal Friend and Critic

Joinville, as discussed last week, comes from an area engrained in the Crusades. He has a strong aristocratic background which helps forge an interesting narrative of mentorship and friendship with King Louis. The Life of St. Louis is a religious work as much as anything, but the emphasis of the writing is as much about two separate incarnations of Louis as it is about his sainthood. Joinville writes of Louis as a king, and as a saint, a unity which is at odds.

Joinville tells of Louis’s alms-giving, his churchgoing, and especially of his acts of humility. Joinville’s representation of the king shows that he was striving to live according to his beliefs, dictating his actions with the ethic of the gospel. Saintliness, which is linked to the future, benefits Christendom after the saint’s death, by providing an example of someone who indeed follows Christ’s command by giving up everything in order to follow him. Even more importantly, the saint is seen as reenacting Christ’s earthly life and suffering, thereby reminding Christians that their life has an eternal significance. Being a king, even a pious king, involves making do with the present, with the means at one’s disposal, and with the temporal demands of one’s subjects. At times, it seems as if Joinville wonders whether the king is adequately fulfilling his terrestrial mission.

The underlying facet of the narrative is that Joinville is one of Louis’ intimate friends and advisers. As a result, it would be assumed that Joinville would portray the dichotomy of kingliness and saintliness in the most intimate details of Louis’s life and the men’s life together. Moreover, Joinville wishes to portray King Louis in such a way which might be an example to his readers and to Louis’ heirs. Joinville’s work is his own reflection both on Louis’ position as king of France and his status as a saint.

Since Joinville was a layman and a political figure himself, as seneschal of Champagne, it is interesting that he chooses to reflect on the notion of saintliness and of how it appears in the world, and especially in the political world to which Louis belongs. In other words, Joinville provides an interesting account on how saintliness can indeed be secular – how it does not have to play out beyond the living world but rather can exist within. This insistence on reflecting how sainthood ought to be practiced in the world makes Joinville a product of his time. Thus, while many of Joinville’s writing can be seen as a chronicle, it could also be classified as a religious text above all.

Joinville’s two characters are explored with different views of Louis. This first section will look at Louis as a king.

For Joinville, to be kingly is very similar to being knightly – that is, knights do not automatically receive respect due to their position, rather they earn it through moral merit. Honour, justice and chivalry are traits of the knight which also demonstrate the secular role of the good Christian king on Earth. Episodes which Joinville depicts the king putting his life in danger could be seen as sacrificial saintly behaviour were potentially not so – three of the four episodes involve the safety of his people. These episodes are more a sign of chivalry then. Furthermore, a closer examination of Louis’s relationship to the people for whom he is risking his life shows that it is not a simple matter of his dying so that they might live. In all of the episodes, the relationship might best be described as one of solidarity: one for all and all for one.

Example 1: When the king jumps fully armed into the sea against the advice of others, and is the first to reach ground in order to begin battle with the Saracens, cannot be understood in any other light. The king’s action is symbolic of his position as leader and friend of his people.

Example 2 and 3: Louis refuses to escape to Damietta on a ship, and when the king, in spite of the advice of his navigators, refuses to leave his ship.
The king sees his fate as bound to that of his people and as a result feels unable to take the selfish action.

Example 4: The decision to remain in the Holy Land against the advice of his council. Here, the reason given for the king’s staying on seems more directly related to his people’s salvation than in the three other episodes; however, Joinville does not provide much information surrounding the king’s decision. Instead, he insists on the past success of the French. It is also here that the king and Joinville’s relationship and solidarity is further expressed. It is here that Joinville himself is most directly associated with the king’s suffering.

Joinville’s proof of the king’s justice is the way in which he judges. Thus, even though Joinville distinguishes religious and state activity, piety remains the basis for human deeds. Joinville presents the reader with a kind of dialectic: the meaning of Louis’s religious practice is renewed because he adds justice, and true justice is possible when grounded in faith. Through his narrative, Joinville, in a sense, brings his own answers to debates about the relationship between theological and cardinal virtues. For Joinville, the Catholic virtues remain empty if not manifested in the world through the political.

Louis as a Saint:
Part of the aim of Joinville’s book is to distinguish for Louis’s heirs what was properly kingly about the king’s life and behavior, and what happened when saintliness affected his actions as a ruler. An aspect of Louis’s saintliness is that his choices are incomprehensible and often appear misguided to those around him, including Joinville.

Joinville represents events of Louis’ life which are highly symbolic as prophecy to Louis’ destiny as a saint. The dominant symbol of the cross shows that it is not just the story of a king, but the story of one destined to become a saint. On the one hand, the cross represents the crusade and the life-long importance for the king of the effort to protect and take back the Holy Land from the Muslims. On the other, the cross, and by extension the Crusade, elucidate parallels to Christ’s passion and to Louis’ passion as a crusader and a martyr. For Joinville, Louis is not among the confessors, he dies a crusader for Christ – a martyr.

The symbol of the cross crops up on various occasions in Louis’ life:
1. Joinville begins his section on Louis’s deeds by indicating that he was born on the feast of Saint Mark the evangelist. The prophetic sign of the black crosses attending Louis’s birth points not just to his individual martyrdom and glorification but to that of those suffering alongside him. Individual heroics are not as important to Joinville as the actions which are able to transform a reluctant group of crusaders - to redeem them and open for them the doors of paradise. For Joinville, Louis’s lowering of himself to being one small, suffering part of the group in the end exalts the whole group, just as Christ’s final humiliation on the cross led to the salvation and exaltation of humanity.
2. The account of how Louis took his crusader’s vow: We have all read this story in Matthew Paris and discussed the difference in how Joinville presents it. Several aspects of Joinville’s narrative of this episode distinguish it as being important in his portrait of Louis as a crusader and saint. The first aspect that may be noticed is that Joinville marks the story as a point in time at which Louis breaks both with his past as king and with his past as a son and heir continuing on in the family tradition. Louis’s rulerly destiny is halted, turned around and the meaning of his life on earth radically modified. He could have continued on as a good son and good king; instead, through his symbolic death and resurrection, he experiences a conversion where he is willing to give up his kingdom to take up his cross.

Overall, Joinville is preoccupied with the truth of his story and careful to indicate when he himself was an eye-witness and when he wasn’t. He was not with Louis at the time of his sickness and his decision to take the cross; yet it was essential to his sainthood so he relies on the account of Louis himself. The immediateness of Louis’s healing--he was about to die and then, he was well--is obviously the miracle, but the wealth of biblical or religious symbolism in this passage also emphasizes its importance. The two women taking care of Louis become of importance - the first thinks that Louis is dead and wants to cover his face. The two women argue almost as if it were the argument of a devil and angel over Louis’ soul.

Saintly virtue of love:
One of the final themes in Joinville is of the saintly virtue of love. In short, the most important trait is love, not just love, but love of God. This signifies that for Joinville, Louis’ love of God is not to be seen so much in his obedience to commandments, but in his imitation of God’s own works, and in particular his work of sacrifice and martyrdom for his people.

Joinville's Representation of the Tartars, Turks, and Bedouins.

John of Joinville’s The Life of Saint Louis has a surprisingly objective portrayal of enemies and the “exotic other” in the context of the crusades. In this time, one would expect that a sense of religious entitlement and superiority would cross over into the descriptions of enemies, or exotic others. Anthropologically speaking, the Tartars, Turks and Bedouins are presented in manner not as subjective, and not with an air of superiority that has been portrayed before. Please consider Matthew Paris’ description of the Tartars; they are a “detestable race of Satan”, who “cover the face of the earth like locusts…spreading a destructive fire and slaughter” where ever they travelled. In short, as portrayed by Matthew Paris, the Tartars were a near a fiendish group of blood lusting, power hungry brutes. This and equally negative descriptions of the Tartars, Turks, and Bedouins are spared by John of Joinville in his The Life of Saint Louis, specifically the section detailing Joinville’s Crusade, or page 191 to 316.

The Tartars are not given as much attention as Matthew Paris gives in his Chronica Majora and are restricted to, in The Life of Saint Louis, a short chapter titled “The Crusaders at Caesara, (Reports Concerning the Tartars).” In this chapter Joinville describes the process of appointing a leader of the Tartars. Accordingly, each tribe under the mass empire of the Tartars would gather and each would elect their most promising member by throwing an arrow marked with the name of said person in a pile. Then a small child would pick an arrow, and whoever’s name was drawn selected his fifty-two closest, or highest-ranking friends, and thrown their names (arrows) in a new pile. The child would choose an arrow, and the corresponding person would be King of the Tartars.[1] In a climate of religious tension, Joinville would be expected to waste no time in placing a judgment on this process of determining rule that resembles the “throw-your-hockey-sticks-in-the-middle-and-sort-out-the-teams” style of organizing a rag-tag pickup hockey game. Joinville declines any such judgments and continues by outlining the laws given to keep the peace in the Tartar society; he states “that no man should steal from another or strike another if he did not want to lose his hand, nor should any man sleep with another man’s wife or daughter if he did not want to lose his hand or his life.”[2] Joinville concludes his description of this process by explaining “he [the king] gave them many other good laws in order to maintain peace.”[3] Joinville then describes the cultural make up of the Tartars: the role of women in society, the eating habits, and their impressive war reputation. The Tartars are explained as a very powerful group that is, at times, not so distant. An incident is described (after a description of a desolate city after a Tartar fallout) where the King makes contact with the Tartar king, and a response is given back stating that, in order to keep the Tartars from attacking them, an annual fee must be paid. The discussion is concluded with Joinville stating something to the effect of, “I bet the King wished he hadn’t made contact.”[4]

The Turks constantly seem to be at war with Joinville’s companions, and a reader can get a slight sense of bias when his description of the battles and the people therein are given. The Turks are presented as a formidable opponent, often employing “engines” that launch boulders and flaming arrows; Joinville neglects the opportunity to explain how this could be seen as a cowardly way of fighting. Also, it becomes apparent through Joinville’s presentation of the Turks in warfare, that they only fight fights they feel they can do well in. To explain, often a turning point has been reached in a battle, the Turks are quick to decide all is lost and flee. Very much of the time, the Turks fight in large groups, and if they are isolated or outnumbered, they flee – at least as presented by Joinville. In a more negative aspect, the individual attacks on people (by the Turks) are often done from behind; this is a very dishonorable thing to do. Joinville explains an attack: “A Turk appeared, coming from the direction of the king’s battalion, which was to our rear, and he struck my lord Peter Noville from behind with a mace, pinning him down on his horse’s neck with this blow.”[5] Again, Joinville declines to make hateful and judgmental comment a-la Matthew Paris when describing this attack. Finally, to conclude on the discussion of the Turks, is the conversation about “Scecedin” the commander of the Turks, and this perhaps shows the most bias. Joinville uses the term “infidel” to describe this ruler, but then later continues to describe the physical war clothing, and banners that he wears.[6] The last of the exotic peoples presented by Joinville is the Bedouins, and they are given a scant courtesy.

The Bedouins are described at the beginning of chapter seven. Joinville begins by saying he is going to tell us “what sort of people the Bedouins are.”[7] In short, the Bedouins do not believe in Muhammad, but his uncle, Ali. Under this belief, “when a man dies for his lord, or for any good cause, his soul enters a better and happier body than before.”[8] Joinville does not condone this belief and is quick to state that it is “wicked”, so “wicked that it is the equivalent to saying that God has no power to help us, for those of us who serve God would be fools if we did not believe that he did not have the ability to lengthen our lives and to protect us from evil and misfortune. “[9] Joinville supposedly corrects that viewpoint, and validates his own by saying, “We must believe in him [God], for he has the power to do all things.”[10] A detailed description of the lifestyle of the Bedouins can be found on page 208 and 209, but essentially it states that they are nomadic peoples, and describes that sort of lifestyle.

Finally, when looking at Joinville’s description of the Tartars, Turks, and Bedouins in The Life of Saint Louis one does not encounter the fierce xenophobic like accounts in the style of Matthew Paris, but a more distant, respective and well rounded description. Judgment calls are only ever made, in the case of Bedouins and their following of Ali, when religious doctrine is called into question.

[1] Joinville and Villehardouin. The Chronicles of the Crusade. (Toronto: Penguin Press, 2008), 263-264.

[2] Ibid. 264.

[3] Ibid. 264

[4] Ibid. 267

[5] Ibid. 204

[6] Ibid. 194

[7] Ibid. 209

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

Joinville's Conceptions of Honour

As the historian Leo Braudy notes in his work, From Chivalry to Terrorism, the most lasting cultural mediator between the individual soldier and his social group, between violence and civility, between war and peace, is the concept of honour (page 49). Honour serves as a justification for the professional, as well as for the conscript. Codes were regularly employed to structure and organize the conception of honour among warriors, both on and off the battlefield. The goal of honourable behaviour may be social (to attack an enemy, to defend a woman, to defend one’s lord) or it may be rooted in a personal and internal sense of what is right (Braudy, 52). These codes (at least for Europe) were eventually organized into thoughts of ‘chivalry,’ and can anchor the personal impulse and desire to act to a special group and set of values (Braudy, 54), rectifying the desire to do great things, but not outside of your set social group (aka, the knighthood and army). In wartime, such a code can give an externally validated sense of honour, an approved violence in the name of deeper and more central values (Braudy, 54).

The honourable behaviour of the Crusading battlefield however, is a different matter. The Crusades fused variously opposing ideas together: material gain and idealism, social hierarchy and social egalitarianism, spirituality and violence, local pride and allegiance to an international order (Braudy, 77). Knights functioned as the secular arm of the Church during the Crusades, and as such they were bound by the code of honour given to the crusaders by Pope Urban II in 1095. This gave rise to the idea of the "Code of Chivalry." Every crusader had to "swear to defend to his uttermost the weak, the orphan, the widow and the oppressed; he should be courteous, and women should receive his especial care. Thus to his bravery and love of adventure, the knight was enjoined to add gentler qualities" (Swettenham, 26).

These conflicting ideas are seen within John de Joinville’s writings, though not in an explicit manner. Joinville offers insight to honour and dishonour at this time in several key areas: the manner of the fighting man on the battlefield, the behaviour of knights/arms men off the field of battle, and the treating with/against enemies. For Joinville, the actions of a knight carried with it various levels of honour, as well as for the lower ranks and divisions of the Crusading army. He especially emphasizes ‘good’ deeds performed by knights/nobles as being honourable acts, one example of which was the actions of Count Guy of Forez. The count and his knights broke through a battalion of Saracen enemies, and with a broken leg, proceeded to protect the king of Sicily (among others) from the battle (Joinville, 195). The act of placing oneself in danger to protect others it seems is a trait that Joinville considers to be honourable.

Joinville provides us with two opposing ideas of how the Crusaders dealt with, and were dealt by, their various Muslim enemies. One example that Joinville gives us that denotes a dishonourable interaction from both parties is the case of what each does with prisoners. Joinville tells us that, “there is a bad custom in the infidel lands according to which when the king sends envoys to the sultan, or the sultan to the king, and the king or sultan happens to die before the envoys’ return, those envoys are taken as prisoners and slaves no matter what side they are from, whether Christian or Saracen” (page 222). The dishonour of not returning prisoners to the opposing camp – either through ransom or some sort of prisoner exchange – was something that Joinville denounced, and would have preferred some sort of fair exchange.

In dealing with various sultans, emirs, and Muslim kings, a variety of oaths, pacts, and agreements were made between them and the Crusading kings/leaders. For example, when dealing with several emirs from the city of Damietta, the king required them to protect the sick, along with weapons caches and salted meats until the king should need them (page 234). The oaths that the emirs had to swear to the king revolved around the concept of honour. The punishment of breaking these oaths had a notably religious theme, that also incorporated the concepts of shame, respect, and God. Should they break their oaths, they “would be dishonoured as he who, because of his sinfulness, goes on pilgrimage to Muhammad at Mecca with his head uncovered, and as dishonoured as those who leave their wives and then take them back afterwards…dishonoured as the Saracen who eats pig’s flesh (page 234-235). However, these same emirs also demanded that the king swear an oath as well. This oath too, revolved around honour related to religion; “…he would be dishonoured as the Christian who denies God and his Mother, and is barred form the fellowship of his twelve companions and of all the saints…” [he would agree to this point], as well he would be “dishonoured as the Christian who denies God and his law and who, scorning God, spits and tramples on the cross.” [he would not agree to this point] (page 235). This interchange of oaths denotes an interesting interchange between two cultures at war with another.

The personal affairs and honour of knights and the Crusaders was also of interest to Joinville. He denotes several affairs of knights who besmirch their honour, and certainly does not approve. For example, during his time as Caesarea a young knight was caught in a brothel, and was offered a choice of punishment; either the prostitute would lead him through the camp by a cord tied round his genitals while he was wearing just his chemise, or he would lose his horse and his armour and be expelled from the camp (he would eventually be expelled) (page 270). Several other incidents revolve around this concept of personal honour and acting in an honourable way that Joinville not the wider Crusading society at the time approve of.

Overall Joinville provides little outright definitions of what chivalry consists of, and indeed many researchers relate it mainly to knights and the knighthood, which Joinville hints at as well. According to other research found for today, poetry at the time detailed the knightly characteristics of humility; the Knights acquired honour not through their strength and valour in battle alone, rather through the act of using these skills in the name of God, and in defense of the Christian faith against the Infidel (Jackson, Though Joinville does not detail much of the honour found on the battlefield, he does condemn those who flee from battle (Joinville, 278). The act of fleeing from battle has been a signal of cowardice for most armies, and indeed has a direct correlation to conceptions of honour on the Crusader battlefield.

A Hard Day's Knight

Louis IX – How Typical A Jordan Crosby

The King of France, Louis IX, is typical of a knight, in that he is an ardent warrior who resembles above all the notion of chivalry, which is protecting the weak and defenceless, and fighting for the welfare of all. He is someone who shows faith, courage, loyalty and honour. Louis shows all of these characteristics by the fact that he would not let his men fight the Barons without him assisting him in battle. Louis had no intention of making peace with the Barons, rather not settling until they were repelled from the country (167). Even the way he dressed signalled a connection with the knights, wearing silk cotes (169). In one scene, Louis shows up with his entire battalion, to which Joinville remarked he “never saw a man so finely armed” (202). From head to toe, with steel helmet on his head, and German sword in his hand, Louis depicted the traditional image of a knight.

Fighting Ability

Aside from merely looking like a knight, there are many examples of Louis IX being visibly active and successful in battle, which leads to his heroic abilities as being knightly. Upon approaching Saracen lands, he leapt ahead of his fellow men, placed his lance under his arm and shield in front of him, and attempted to charge at the Saracens in front of him (185). This was a break away from the route the Saracens took, namely slaughtering people as they slept, (189) which was a cowardly way of killing someone. His fighting skills were also quite impressive, as on one occurrence, Louis was being carried away by six Turks, and managed to single-handedly kill all six by the sword (204). It was noted that had it not been for the King, the French cause would have been over before it had even gotten underway, and in essence Louis saved the day. He was claimed as having been the only King to swim across a river, defeated his enemies and captured their tents (206). His courage was undeniable, but at the same time he was showing his faith in God by not only engaging in the crusades, but by giving all recognition of his glory to the Lord.


Aside from being active and heroic in battles, Louis IX also showed knightly expressions of loyalty to his family and French subjects. Upon hearing that his brother was being beaten by the Saracens, the King immersed himself personally in his brother’s battle, and placed himself so far among the enemy that they set fire to his horse (212). Being able to ride a horse is also a sign of being knightly, and equestrianism is an important aspect of being a knight. The King, through his actions, was able to rescue the King of Sicily and his men, as well as driving the Turks from their camp (214). The King made it clear he would never abandon his people. Louis’ best example of showing the knightly value of loyalty is best seen in his truce with the Saracens, in which he offered himself as a prisoner (221) in order to show his dedication to the negotiations. Rather than submit one of his brothers, or any of his dedicated men, Louis gave himself up as a prisoner to prove the loyalty he showed for his people.

It was absolutely absurd for a King to place himself as a prisoner to an enemy. The King would not back down from the enemy’s threats, saying that as a prisoner, he would succumb to any torture, and would raise 400,000 livres to meet their demands. Louis was also loyal to his men who died in the crusades, as seen by the fact that he personally carried the rotten and stinking dead bodies of his former men to give them a proper burial (291), not even pausing to hold his nose from the stench, which everyone else was doing.


By the agreement, Louis would have to uphold the agreement, otherwise he would be dishonoured as a Christian, thereby denying God and his Mother (235). Religious devotion is a major aspect of chivalric code, and the two were inseparable. The crusades served the moral code of religious duty, and religious groups devoted their crusades to protect their religious beliefs. Louis would uphold the agreement as a way to show his absolute devotion to Christianity, and would rather die than risk being seen as a hack to his religion. The Saracens on the other hand, were not chivalric as they slaughtered the king’s men and his engines despite being under oath to protect them (237). Upon release, the King dedicated to any agreement with any people refused to leave unless his men paid the 200,000 livres to the Saracens, and the extra 10,000 that was taken illegitimately. This showed his absolutely knightly devotion to God and the religious cause of the crusades.

Even in the throes of defeat, Louis would not abandon his knightly deeds of honour and courage. The great and wise men of France were urging Louis to go home, which he refused to do claiming that he came for the religious mission of restoring Jerusalem to Christianity, and would not leave until he was successful (252). This was problematic for him, because as the greatest Christian king, what would people think if he would be unable to deliver the most holies of places from the enemies at hand, but had merely made a pilgrimage into foreign lands. Once he finally agreed to go home, Louis’ boat, carrying his family and friends reached turbulence, and his men told the King to disembark in order to save his life. Again showing the knightly values of chivalry and loyalty refused to place himself ahead of his men saying “I would rather place my own person, my wife and children at risk in God’s hands than that I should do much harm to so great a number of people as there are on board” (303). Louis is not only showing devotion to his loyal men, but is also showing his faith in God.

Back Home
Back at home, Louis’ reforms also followed the knightly chivalric code of providing for the weak and poor. On his return, every day he fed his poor people and gave them money after the meal (313). He also gave money and gifts to churches (showing his love to God) to hospitals and to poor people (319). Not only that but in an act of good graciousness, he ceded back to England lands he personally took from them in an effort to establish peace. Right up until his death, Louis harboured the chivalric virtues of being courageous, loyal and faithful as in 1270 he attempted to lift up the cross again, and launch another crusade. Despite his poor health, he was the one brave and dedicated enough to lift up the cross when nobody else would.

A criticism of Louis IX from Joinville, which repudiated the chivalric rule of knights, is how the King broke with customs relating to money. Louis was criticized by Joinville for his neglect of putting his own money to use as a way of sending more men to the cause (250). It was argued that if he would donate his own money, more relief and support would eagerly come and fight for the crusades. Louis was acting greedily, and not in the general concern for his people and his mission. Another criticism of Louis related to one of his sergeants, the Glutton, who laid his hands on one of the knights from Joinville’s battalion. Louis, not acting in good morale, refused to originally act on the incident, seeing it as irrelevant, thereby showing disloyalty to his men (271).

Joinville - wonders and miracles

Wonders and Miracles

Medieval chronicler Jean de Joinville has provided historians with quite a personal account of his own trials and tribulations in the Holy Land during the seventh crusade, 1248-1254. While his body of work was designed to be a biography of the pious King Louis IX, the impression I perceived upon reading Joinville’s work was a profound sense of empathy for the author. Although the depicted events revolved around the French king, Chronicles of the Crusades reads much like an autobiography. This observation is made most apparent within the author’s renditions of religious and spiritual experiences. Discussing the Holy War, I conceived three separate categories whereas Joinville’s account of wonders and miracles could be construed: God’s mysteries, God’s will, and God’s intervention. Religion clearly shaped the author’s worldview, and having an appreciation of his sense of devotion is the only way to understand him

God’s Mysteries

There is a definite sense of wonderment in large segments of Joinville’s writings. Though the Chronicles is not a diary, the same anecdotal remarks present in the chronicle. I define ‘God’s mysteries’ as grand expressions that cannot be explained otherwise. An obvious example, the author expresses awe at the sight of the Nile. He inferred, “No one knows where this flood comes from”. If it were not for the river, the surrounding life would simply burn up. He insinuated that the Nile was akin to an “earthly paradise”. A not-so-obvious example of ‘God’s mysteries’, King Louis himself. Discussing the new fortifications of Jaffa, Joinville explained that the good king spent 30,000 livres of his own funds on a mere gate! Trying to grasp the tremendous humility of such a donation, all that Joinville could state was “God help him” – as if relaying a message that the king was not of this world.

God’s Will

Every time the author survived a battle, or overcame a disease, God’s hand was at play. My second category pertains to Joinville’s religious faith more than anything. Depicted in the chronicle, as armies clashed within the Nile delta, the enemy was preparing to hurl caskets full of flammable liquid. The author got down on his knees and prayed for deliverance. Amazingly, Joinville survived the battles, his subsequent capture, and even time spent imprisoned. The entire chronicle is full of examples regarding the assistance of God, or by the grace of God, or God forbid etc… In all cases, ‘thy will done’ was done.

God’s Intervention

Now, ‘intervention’ and ‘will’ are not one in the same. Rather than letting fate take its course, ‘intervention’ entailed a more activity of the lord. In a word, these interventions were miracles. While in Sidon, Joinville and the sing visited a church that was supposedly blessed - the almighty had come down from the heavens and saved a recently widowed girl from the clutches of Satan. The two friends subsequently attended mass, exhibiting piety. This conveys a general impression to the reader that such activities represented the true goals of the Holy Land. On the journey back to France, a squire fell into the Mediterranean Sea unnoticed by all. When a galley ship picked him up, Joanville later asked the boy why he had not yelled out or even try and swim? To this the squire replied that Our Lady of Vauvert was protecting over him during the entire ordeal. This was a miracle, and the author actually commissioned the creation of stain glass windows depicting this event,

There is value in appreciating Joinville’s religious worldview. Given that he wrote the chronicle many years after the actual crusade, I got the feeling that his opinions had been honed. Looking back on his life, the author had probably gained new insights. Indeed, if he was trying to have King Louis canonized, Joinville would have certainly had a different interpretation of the past events than prior. Considering his rendition of wonders and miracles, it becomes clear that the author was pious himself. If this is true, it just begs the question, why did the crusades fail?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Man Above All Others

France and King Louis during the Crusade
by Jordan Crosby

King Louis IX was born a devout Catholic, and was characterized as a man who loved God and anybody who accepted God, regardless of their background (30). Over the course of his life, King Louis would wage two crusades, one in 1248, and then in 1270 (70). Crusades by their very nature were sanctioned religious missions launched by Roman Catholic France as a way to return the Holy Land of Jerusalem back to Christian hands, and out of the grasp of the heathen Muslim population. Upon leaving on leaving for Jerusalem, the men would sing in God’s name, and would set sail in the name of the Lord (126).

What makes France distinct in regard to the Crusade is the fact that they were always at the forefront, which was symbolic of the eagerness and tenacity of Louis IX. The King himself was the leader of the crusades, and he made all his barons swear an oath of loyalty to him, declaring that they shall solemnly swear allegiance to his children should he die (114). What makes Louis remarkable is the fact that he did not just sit idly by and let other people do the deeds, but rather he is a central player in the crusades.

This is seen in a number of different ways. The first is that when the boat carrying the King’s loyal men reached Cyprus, they were shocked to find that Louis was already there waiting for them, with copious amounts of wine, grain and money (130). This was the first stop in the effort to reach Egypt, and it was told that Louis would have travelled non-stop to Egypt, without a break, had it not been for the barons who urged him to wait for his reinforcements. (132). This is remarkable for the fact that out of an original 2,800 men who set sail for Jerusalem, only 700 remained from a violent storm (146). Louis’s eagerness and loyalty to the cause prevented him from wanting to wait for reinforcements, rather he wanted to get in on some action as soon as humanely possible.

Another striking detail about the first crusades, is that Louis was willing to assist other countries, even though they might not be friends, as a way to rescue Jerusalem from the heathen Saracens. Louis received word from the King of the Tartars that he would assist them in their crusades, however the King himself did not offer his services, choosing instead to send envoys (133). This again shows that France, and especially Louis, were the forefront of the crusades, and while other countries were willing to assist, they were not willing to go as far.

Aside from merely being a King, and taking part in the crusades, Louis IX was an absolute participant in the battles as well. Upon reaching Saracen land, King Louis IX, with his shield at his neck, helmet on his head, and lance in his hand, got ready to charge at the Saracens, but was ultimately held back by his men (162). Following the battle of Mansurah, Brother Henry of Ronnay told him that no King of England has ever swam across a river, defeated his enemies in battle, and captured his enemies tents. Louis selflessly replied that it was God who should be praised, as the Lord was the one who granted him such remarkable talents (244). It ultimately ended up in failure, with Louis having to live at the court of the crusader Kingdom in Acre.

But his character would not allow him defeat, and again, at the young, ripe age of fifty-six, Louis found it his mission to attempt another crusade at bringing Jerusalem back into Christian hands (734). It turned out to be a dismal failure, but the fact that he took up the cross in the name of the Lord at fifty-six shows his true character. Quite literally, no other King did what he did, young and old, and it shows his determination and love of God, which put him, and France at the forefront of the crusades.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Side of Tartar's Sauce

The account of the Tartar people by Matthew Paris is a surprisingly objective account. The discussion that Paris writes into his account is almost wholly based on statements made by a former archbishop of Russia named Peter, who was forced to flee Russia after the Tartar (Mongol) invasion (page 28). Paris also relies for Tartar information from other refugees, including Albanians, who arrive at the St. Albans monastery.

Paris (through Peter) informs us that twelve chieftains led these people, the leader of which was called ‘Tartar Khan’ (known to us today as Genghis Khan). We are told that he has 3 sons, Thesir Khan, Chun Khan and Bathatar Khan (page 28), and were raised in conditions that were particularly barbaric (rude, lawless and inhuman). Historian Jack Weatherford in his work, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, notes that the actual names of Khan’s children were actually Jochi, Chaghatai, Ogodei and Tolui.

The account of the Tartars found in the Chronicle details much of their history concerning military conquests, political interactions and religious strife. Paris informs us that, “Thesir Khan proceeded against the Babylonians; Churi Khan against the Turks; and Bathatar Khan remained at Ernac, and sent his chiefs against Russia, Poland, Hungary, and several other kingdoms; and three, with their numerous armies, are now presumptuously invading the neighbouring provinces of Syria” (page 29). Though the names are different, these children would later found major political and geographic dynasties after the death of Genghis Khan. Unfortunately, the book does not list different forms of the sons’ names, but the following are listed as being their later dynastic founding’s:

· Jochi – “Golden Horde” à Russia

· Chaghatai – “Moghul Empire” à India

· Tolui, through his sons:

o Hulegu – “Ilkhanate” à Persia and Iraq

o Khubilai – “Yuan Dynasty” à China

The details and story that Matthew Paris provides to readers is remarkably objective, and though there is at times language that would denote condescension, Paris is no Gregory of Tours. While Gregory constantly denounced those who did not embrace the Christian faith or the Church (Arians, pagans, etc.), Paris is more standoffish when it comes to describing the habits and beliefs of the Tartars. As Paris (and Peter) are apt to note they are not Christian – “God and his Son in heaven, and Chiar Khan on earth” (page 29) – but do have a deep spirituality that reflects some of the tenets that many Christians embrace. For example they fear sentence of future condemnation may be passed against them (page 30).

For most of the time period from 1246 to 1252 A.D. Paris relates the political and empirical movements that the Tartars undergo in Europe and in the Middle East. What seems to be most important for Paris is the reluctance, if not outright defiance by European and Islamic princes/kingdoms towards the Tartar envoys and empire. The threat of the Tartars seems to be able to unite many of the European kings, and at times lessen hostilities with Arabs who also fought against them.

Paris also concerns himself with the news that Peter (the same man as before) had succeeded in converting the king of the Tartars (pg. 319). Again we see Paris being rather objective with his relating of this news, stating that the French King and various bishops were pleased with the conversion, but little opinion is given by Paris about these news events.

I will expand on some other things that Paris notes about the Tartars in my talk in class that were not included in the pages assigned to read as well.

Role of Death and Obits Jordan Crosby

The role of death and obituaries in Matthew Paris’ English History is similar to the presentation I gave last week. The theme throughout this collection of readings, and the works presented by Suzanne Lewis have the view that those who persecute Christianity and their followers are people of non-Christian faith, and will ultimately be punished for their religious beliefs, and their horrible acts. In English History, this is seen with the wretched death of Engelram de Coucy, the father of the Queen of Scotland, who met his death in a remarkable way. Engelram was described as being the old persecutor of the Church, notably the church of Clairvaux. Paris notes that he died a double death as in his lifetime he was obsessed with materialism, while in spiritual life he was “a sad dissipater” (7) One day, while riding his horse, the horse stumbled and Engelram fell backwards into deep water, and was dragged by his stirrups. While he was falling, his sword became unravelled from his sheath, and it stabbed him as he was drowning, thereby dying a double-death. Paris commented that he departed this life to reap the fruits of his ways (7), which can suggest to the reader that he is in hell, with all the other materialistic sinners.

Another tale from Paris’ English History surrounds the finding of the dead body of a boy in London. Upon inspection of the deceased body, it was discovered that his legs, arms, and under his chest was in scripted with Hebrew characters. It was thus believed that the Jews had killed the young boy to taunt and insult Jesus, and either crucified or beat him so badly that he died before he would be crucified. It tied into the death of Jesus, and the belief that members of the Jewish faith and religion crucified Christians. Marks on the boy’s body are in agreement with the belief that the boy was beaten and tortured to death. It was found out that the boy had been sold to the Jews, and when blame was begun to be placed on them, the Jews took to flight and never returned (21-2). After the discovery of his body, and in line with Gregory of Tours (as the Christian boy was a martyr in that it was believed he died for his faith) the Lord brought miracles out through the deceased boy. Gregory of Tours wrote that martyrs when they died became representatives of God, and would perform miracles for ordinary believers. At the same time as the young boy’s body was discovered, miracles in the name of Christ began to appear as health would be restored to the sick, in the praise of Christ, and seen at the tombs of England’s most holy people (22). In his English History Matthew Paris also pays obituaries to people, seen in the death of Margaret (sister of the King of Scotland) to which he announces she was buried with proper ceremony and respect amongst the preacher brethren (37). Paris also pays homage to William (Bishop of Winchester), who paid his debt to nature, and died in the prime of his life who was noted for both his good learning and morals. (37) Matthew Paris is paying debt to those good moral Christians who died, and are deemed worthy of his praise.

Somebody does not have to die in order to show not only the power of God, but of Matthew Paris’ preference and loyalty for Christianity. While Paris shows how those who move away from God will be punished, those who accept him will be rewarded. This is similar to Gregory of Tours (tale of Chilperic), and Paris shows the tale of the King of France on his deathbed. The King, about to die, has the holy cross and crown of Christ placed on him, and he made an oath that if Christ should save him from death, he would assume the crown and dedicate his life to visiting the Holy Sepulchre and rule in favour of the poor and needy (38). Due to the acceptance and power of Christ, the King was restored full health, and even visited St. Albans (where Matthew Paris is from, and which he greatly adores in his writings) where he offered gifts of thanks and obedience.

These same messages are seen in Suzanne Lewis’ writings of Matthew Paris. Lewis shows how Matthew attacks those figures that do not conform to his religious beliefs, rather abusing them, such as the prophet Mohammed. Medieval readers who read the works of Mohammed were shocked by the polygamist nature of the prophet’s sexual life, and were greatly appalled. This led many people, including Matthew Paris, to believe that his claims about having revelations from God were totally false. Matthew Paris visually focuses on Mohammed’s death as deserved punishment for the life he led (100), which did not conform and insulted Christian beliefs. His obituary shows Mohammed standing with a scroll stating his unabashed love of adultery, which mocks and gives a religious reason of why Mohammed died.
Since he turned away from the light of the Lord, and lived a life of sin, he was greatly punished with death. Rejecting notions that the prophet had merely died by poisoning, Matthew gives a more gruesome description, as he was accustomed to, saying “He then however fell on a dung heap and...rolled about, gnashing his teeth and foaming at the mouth. A hungry pig, upon discovering that shameless man whose open mouth exalted the stink of undigested meat, set upon him and suffocated him until he was half-dead, dismembered and torn” (100). The punishments meted out to Mohammed corresponded to the punishments allocated by the Holy Trinity. Matthew’s words are quite clear, polygamy is evil, and those who are guilty of it will be punished. His conception of history is shaped by a desire to show patterns of moral retribution, even if he has to make them up (101), and this story supports that belief.

Suzanne Lewis shows that Matthew Paris believed that historical events could be known through prophetic revelations. The punishment meted out to those who persecute Christians, is best seen in the martyrdom of St. Alban. While the story of his death is seen as being “pure interpolation” (107), Matthew adds it in to show moral justice, but to also defend his St. Abbey’s church. His version of martyrdom has the operation of divine justice, because when St. Alban has his head removed, the executioner’s eyes fall out (107). This is meant to depict a message of punishment to those who persecute his Christian beliefs, punish those who persecute such beliefs, and show the ability of saints to suspend the laws of nature. (107)

This story allowed Britain to claim its own martyr, (which Gregory of Tours was obsessed with) but it shows how Matthew used death to show his personal loyalties for his religious beliefs in favour of others.

St. Albans death was important he shows, because his burial allowes Offa to find the relics in 793, which flowed all the benefits of the Benedictine monastery (111). Matthew’s depiction of Offa pointing towards the relics, served the purpose of fighting off rival claims to the St. Alban relics, which had been going on for hundreds of years. (111). Matthew would use death as a means of punish those who disagreed or attacked St. Albans and the relics, as the case with Fawkes de Breave. He was a man who persecuted Christians, much like Engelram de Coucy, and was charged with committing a crime against St. Albans and the prophecies. Matthew embellished new crimes (murdering his cook) and new interpretations into his acts, which served the message of saying those who did not conform to Christianity, but made a mockery out of it and persecuted those who believed it, would be punished harshly. He provided an obituary of Fawkes with a poisoned fish in his mouth, which served St. Alban’s triumph over this Norman foe (116-9), and made the message clear...persecute or mock Christianity, and you will be punished, while if you adhere to it, you will be greatly rewarded by the Lord....Gregory of Tours anyone???

The World of Matthew Paris, and the Documents Therein

The Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris is a valuable resource for historians because it provides a plethora of documents (official letters, memoranda, and laws) that inform the narrative of thirteenth century England. The majority of the primary sources deal with communications between the Pope, Kings and Emperors, and occasionally there are documents validating the financial standing of a citizen or institution, and even rarer still, is the documents that detail instructions from the King, Pope, or Emperors to the lower echelons of society.
Matthew Paris is very aware of the duality, or faults of sources, but he also describes them as containing a sense of finality. To explain, Matthew Paris describes the uses of documents in the case of a financial dispute; he states “the evident iniquity of the whole course of the proceedings is also shown by the causes which includes and...are defended by the incorruptible truth and by public documents.” (Matthew Paris, Vol. 2, 166). In this case documents are used to validate truths, but do not, in the eyes of Matthew Paris, solely constitute truth.
The first document provided in the Chronica Majora is a letter from the Pope to the prelates of England, reaffirming the virtues of the Church of England, and providing some level of financial instruction. Matthew Paris later explains that these letters back and forth were common, but not without “the expense of a large sum of money.” (17 - Matthew Paris AD 1244) Another curious note, is the political foresight, or awareness that the letter seems to contain; at the end of the letter, after all of the financial instruction/suggestion, the Pope explains, “He [the King] may more easily endure the burden of his expenses, and that, by doing so, you may be at a future time to claim for yourselves the favour and thanks of the said king (which you, without doubt, are in want of)....” (17 - Matthew Paris AD 1244), and continues to state that, later this will aid in Church promotion from the King. The bluntness of this message is striking because one would suspect that political motivation while a pragmatic reality, should not be so obviously voiced. One would expect an aura of benevolent compliance. The honesty portrayed in the letter from the Pope to his prelates suggests a certain level of honesty in the primary sources, however this in not entirely true of all documents included in Matthew Paris’ work.
However, before delving into the problematic nature of the documents included in Matthew Paris’ additional document appendix of the Chronica Majora another example should be discussed. In my opinion, one of the more intriguing pieces is a French translation of the King’s concern for peace and safety in his kingdom. The document inherits a mild paranoia when discussing the number of armed men that are to be placed in each town, the recruitment of other armed men (based on their cattle and land owning), and then a breakdown of material wealth in relation to service. (432. Matthew Paris, Vol. 3 “Additamenta”). The documents main points are summarized in six succinct, and at times not so succinct points.

"Done in the presence of the archbishop of York, at Westminster, the 20th day of May, in the thirty-sixth year of our reign, Henry, the son of John.


1.That watch be kept in every town, as they have been wont to be kept, by good and able men.

2.That pursuit by hue and cry be made according to the ancient and proper form, in such way that the negligent what will not follow the cry may be taken as accomplices of the evil-doers, and be given up to the sheriff. Moreover, hi every town, four or six men, according to the number of the inhabitants, shall be appointed to make the true and cry with promptitude and perseverance, and to pursue evil-doers, if any should arise, and it should become necessary, with bows and arrows, and other light arms, which ought to be provided for the custody of the whole town, and which may always remain for the use of the aforesaid town. And beside the foregoing, there shall be provided, out of each hundred, two free and loyal men of most influence, to be over them, and to see that the watches be duly made as well as the pursuits aforesaid.

3.That no stranger be taken in to lodge, except in the daytime, and that he depart also in broad daylight.

4. That no stranger be received in country villages for more than one day, or two at the utmost; except in the time of harvest, unless his host will answer for him.

5. If any evil-doer, or other person about whom unfavourable suspicions are entertained, is taken by the watchmen, or by other loyal subjects of our lord the king, the sheriff or the bailiff of the hundred shall receive him without delay, and without any payment.

6.Orders shall be given to the mayor and bailiffs of every city and town, that if any trader or foreigner bring money.,, and, showing it to them, asks for a safe-conduct, they shall grant him a safe-conduct through the bad places and doubtful districts ; but if he loses anything, for want of safe-conduct, or under their safe-conduct, restitution shall be made to him out of the common funds of that town or city." (434 - 435, Matthew Paris, Vol. 3)

This document accurately summarizes the nature of the documents -- often they are curatorial, and concerned with policy, administration issues between the higher echelons of medieval society.
Matthew Paris projects a skeptical tone when discussing the sources he included in the Chronica Majora, and he even goes so far as to explain instances of documentation fraud. There is an instance where the Pope sent a letter to the King, made note of the redeeming or validating quality of a charter because it “had been attested by our own handwriting.” (33 - Matthew Paris AD, 1244). Admittedly, it is not Matthew Paris drawing attention to this concern, but it is mentioned by the author of the letter -- the Pope. This could inform the climate of documents in the year 1244, for they were not the sole, independent conveyors of truth, but they were simply written documents that could be moulded, shaped, manipulated and falsified at the whim of any temperer. A notable instance of documentation fraud occurs in the translation of Tartar letters, and the embellishing of pro-France facts. These pro-France facts falsely encouraged the readers to join the then French King, and offer some level of comfort to Christians who may have found the pro-French attitudes alarming. In short, there is the obvious two-faced, play-both-sides nature to the documents. Along with being aware of the duality of some letters and documents, Matthew Paris is also aware of the nature of documents that allow for ethically sketchy activities. On page 366 of Vol. 2 of Chronica Majora Matthew Paris describes an instance whereby, with aid of a papal documents, “Bernard de Nympha” “unjustly” collects a “large sum of money from the crusaders, for the use of Earl Richard.” According to Matthew Paris, this was more an act of robbery, instead of a lawful enforcement of protocol. Perhaps this is an instance where the reader gains a sense of Matthew’s volatile personality, and his disapproval of certain actions of the authorities; but maybe, and on a deeper level, this showcases Matthew’s awareness in the faults of documents. In short, documents do not align with the moral good however this is not unique to the times of Matthew Paris.
As stated before, The Chronica Majora is a valuable tool for historians because of the amount of primary documents that Matthew Paris weaves into his narrative. However, there is some level of consternation in the historical community centered around the insertion of a document involving the “account of King Henry III’s dispute with the barons and the clergy in 1244.” (213. The ‘Paper Constitution’ Preserved by Matthew Paris). This documents proposes a “series of startling, radical provisions for the control of executive and judicature” (Ibid) and according to historians, the documents placement in the narrative is anachronistic. The actions suggested by the document were not put into place in 1244, as Matthew Paris suggests. Mr. Denholm-Young, argues for the anachronistic nature for some of the material included in Matthew Paris’ Chronica Majora, and is a stark reminder of the nature of all documents -- they must be looked at it with a critical mind.
After examining the chronicles of Matthew Paris, it becomes apparent that he was a man of uncompromising opinions. In Paris’ writings, one gets the sense that nothing was sacred, despite the fact that he himself was a clergy member. More to the point, any topic was fair game, including the papal authorities. Within the 1244 chronicle, Pope Innocent IV was thoroughly lampooned. At the mercy of Paris’ pen, the Holy Father was characterized as a greedy coward, corrupted by evil. The evidence cited by the author is relatively strong, thus justifying his slanderous remarks. These unflattering observations may very well have been true, and to this avail the author injects his own assessments of the pope into the chronicle. Rather than simply record what was reported to have transpired, like a normal chronicle, Paris writes more along the lines of commentary, his own personal commentary. He critiques the pope.

The 1244 chronicle starts with a discussion regarding the schism between the pope and Frederic II, the Holy Roman Emperor. Matthew Paris clearly has a prerogative to utilize inflammatory language, which is one aspect of his commentary. In the first subheading of the chronicle, the title proclaims, “How the pope secretly took to flight”. Discussing the escapades of Innocent IV, the author insinuated that the Holy Father was a coward, avoiding the Emperor’s “expected” anger by running away in the middle of the night. If this assessment was not libel enough, Paris even provided an alternative motive – namely that the pope had fled Rome because he wanted to receive certain tributary gifts waiting for him on the other side of the Alps. Hence, the Holy Roman Empire was thrown into near chaos on account of one man’s fear, or worse yet his vanity.

As the chronicle unfolds, the pope is mentioned in various realms of discussion, including: Emperor Frederic II, taxation of the English clergy, the Scots-Anglo border wars, his hideaway in Genoa, and departure to Lyons. A commonality shared within all of these diverse discussions is the popes alleged greed. When it comes to monetary contributions, the pope possesses an “ever open bosom”. In this particular domain, Matthew Paris is a player rather than merely an observer. In 1244, the pope sent the prelates of England a request for funds, which Paris subsequently replicated into the chronicle. Since Paris is a player in this particular issue, his accounts are more akin to commentary rather than neutral reporting. The author concludes this segment by stating that the pope’s requests were wisely turned down. The reasons for this rejection was because King Henry III’s simultaneous funding request was deemed “more worthy”, while the pope’s request was discredited as “provisions for unknown purposes”.

Although it is shocking to hear a Roman Catholic clergymen speaking in such an advert manner, Matthew Paris attested that the Devil instigated Pope Innocent IV’s avarice. Furthermore, after the (not so) Holy Father dispatched an aggressive clerk to England for the purposes of shakedowns and extortion, Paris referred to the pope as a “cruel authority”. Through his papal moneyman Master Martin, the author contended that the pope sought to enslave the English kingdom. Given that Matthew Paris had such strong opinions regarding the pope, his chronicle reads more like a commentary than anything else. Full of flare and disdain, Paris’ attacks on Pope Innocent IV are far too personal to merely be a disinterested rendition of 1244 events. It is as though the pope was on trial, and Matthew Paris was the prosecution. Within the chronicle, he builds his case.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kings in One Year in Matthew Paris’ Chronicle

One Year in Matthew Paris’ Chronicle

Overview of Kings in Chronica Majora
Kings are an important part of history for Matthew Paris. As Lewis points out, “since St. Albans owed its very existence and continuing prosperity to royal patronage, [kings] hold a position of paramount importance.” Surprisingly, this act of good will of the crown on which the abbey depended upon did not limit Paris’ exhibition of his own feelings and biases. Paris’ accounts within the Chronica Majora are coloured with criticisms of the King’s policies. “Unlike most monastic chroniclers, whose traditional conceptions of old feudal loyalties left them unprepared to deal with the emerging political integration of monarchies in England and France, [in dealing with kings] Matthew reveals [and maintains] a remarkable sense of English identity and pride, often verging on xenophobia.”

While the chronicles and illustrations frequently express disproval of royal action and policy, Lewis believes that it is a result of a comparative evaluation of the more modern rulers with that of Alexander the Great. Alexander is often the measuring stick with which rulers are held to – he represents a level of heroism that superceded all moral considerations, he was Matthew’s godlike king. “Alexander plays a key role at the head of a long succession of rulers illustrated in the Chronica Majora, beginning with the founder of Britain and reaching into Matthew's own time, when the awesome task of governing Europe fell divided upon the shoulders of Henry III, Louis IX, and Frederick II.”

Henry III
Henry III was named so because when the earlier Henry died, who was originally in third succession to become king, his father was still living. At his succession, Louis of France had begun a war that was perceived as a usurpation. The war that continued, in the portrayal of a crusade, occurred on land and on sea. The sea aspect of the battles will be remembered as being the tale of St. Bartholomew’s Day and Eustace the Monk. The two separate events are merged by Paris in an attempt to clarify the “incoherence and confusion” of these events. The war was basically a taking and keeping of castles. In true Chronica fashion, the descriptions of the French in the war are less than stellar:
Roger Wendover, who was at this time prior of the Benedictine house at Belvoir, remembers with disgust and dismay the ravages of the French troops: And there everything fell into the hands of these robbers, because the soldiers of the French kingdom, being as it were the refuse and scum of that country, left nothing at all untouched, and their poverty and wretchedness were so great that they had not enough bodily clothing to cover their nakedness.”
Paris characteristically maintains the focus on the vengeful xenophobia of the war, particularly turning points which emphasize the French defeat.The peace that concluded the war in 1217 was amicable and depicted as such with the two princes Louis and Henry, beardless and crowned, surrounded by water to represent the Thames Island it was reached on.

Henry III was crowned again in 1220. The ceremony was, as we’re told, properly performed. Events like this fit well with Henry’s love of pomp and celebratory ritual. Henry’s wedding in 1236 to the French Queen’s sister was prime example. The marriage, well quite the extravagant affair, also signified a new alliance with France that would have a profound effect on the rest of Henry’s reign. Paris attended many functions, beginning with the wedding mentioned above, and as a result he was able to provide great details in the Chronica. This is of note as his accounts of future events depict “that … Henry III was well acquainted with him and knew that he was writing a chronicle. Paris' frequent references to meetings and conversations with the king at St. Albans, Westminster, Winchester, and York suggest that he was on good terms with Henry and that the king had some interest in his historical writings.” Yet in spite of this apparent relationship between the two, Paris considered Henry to be “a spiteful caricature” which Lewis suggests could have been derived from his “deep-seated mistrust of all monarchs and his violent disapproval of most governmental actions.” Overall, his subservience to popes and dependency on the advice of the queen’s French relatives demonstrates to Paris his tyrannical, weak-minded nature which leaves him in the darkness of Alexander’s shadow. On occasion we have reason to note revisions which show a softening; however, his disproval remains abound.

Examples include:
1. Henry Ill's first vain attempt to recover lost Angevin lands in France in 1230
a. He foolishly believed he would gain a foothold across the channel so he lead an invasion full of pomp and regalia expecting to be treated as conqueror by merely arriving. As he waited in vein he fell ill and returned home by October.
b. Matthew illustrates this expedition which he believed a fiasco with the return home showing the king alone “in the front of the vessel, his chin aggressively thrust forward in a truculent pose, suggesting something of his pompous and blind determination, while four knights in mail huddle apprehensively behind the mast, and the helmsman steadies their course with a lateral steering oar” While Roger flatly records Henry's return from France without comment, Matthew notes bitterly that the king came back empty-handed, "having wasted an infinite amount of money, and having caused the deaths of innumerable nobles, weakened them with sickness and hunger, or reduced them to extreme poverty.”
2. Henry’s renounced truce with King Louis.
a. On June 8 Henry renounced his truce with King Louis and moved south, but there was no substance or organization to the rebel movement, and the venture came to nothing. While Paris was able to wet his xenophobic palate when, overcome by hunger and thirst due to the wells being stopped and the rivers and springs becoming poisoned, the French troops fell. It wasn’t long until a truce was recommenced.
3. Battles with the Welsh
a. Despite a few minor triumphs between 1240 and 1246, Henry's attempt to impose English control over Wales also ended in failure. Although Paris, following in the footsteps of Gerald of Wales, perceived the Welsh in an appalling light, his pictorial chronicle of truces punctuated by outbursts of guerrilla warfare and treachery is intended to reveal the instability and inherent weakness of both sides.
4. Enguerrand de Coucy
a. Throughout the Chronica Majora Matthew Paris continues to complain of the king favoring the French at the expense of the English barons, seldom missing an opportunity to prove the untrustworthiness and general moral issues of the French over which providential punishment frequently prevailed. Paris takes special satisfaction in seeing a particularly reprehensible individual receive his just desert.
b. In 1244 he blames the deterioration of the friendship between Henry and the king of Scotland on the latter's matrimonial alliance with the daughter of Enguerrand de Coucy who, "like all the French, was known to be the chief, or rather one of the chief, enemies of the king of the English." We end up learning of his unfortunate double death, a sort of karmic retribution.

As I will discuss more in my presentation to the class, Paris represents in his annal for 1244 that royal virtue is a thing of the past. Various kings since the times of Alexander fall into various categories of moral and political ignominy. As Lewis states, “Wendover and Paris approach their own time, the tarnish of familiarity evokes even greater contempt for the reigning monarchs, John and Henry III, while a new species of hero emerges in a small band of courageous barons who rebel against royal greed and injustice.” The romantic views of what should be royal virtue fails to be revealed in modern times, aside form maybe the adversary of popes – Emperor Frederick II. Virtue, for Paris, comes from the refusal to yield to the pope and the brave defence of Britian’s freedom and independence which Henry III cannot achieve due to his weak-minded relations with the French.

Apocalypse Then!

Within the Christian view of the world God was seen as creator of the universe and he controlled when it began, as well as when it ended. This ending of the world is presented in the biblical Book of Revelations, which says that there will be Final Judgement followed by the reign of the Antichrist. It was the common belief amoung Christian at the beginning of the thirteenth century that this End would be coming soon. Thus, many Christians- including Matthew Paris- began to write and create art depicting this Final Judgment or Apocalypse. Many of these verses and sketches are still in existence, and give an interesting window into the minds and lives of this generation of people who truly believed their world was about to come to an end.

The apocalyptic visions were depicted in both written verse, as well as, through rich imagery. These images and texts used a diverse array of symbols and rhetorical and allegorical tactics. They were also very dramatic in form, which shows the author's “desire to present a picture of the conflict between good and evil,” through “ a set of easily visualizable scenes and strongly-drawn characters that because of their imaginative power remain fixed in the reader's mind.” 1 Each of the scenes depicting the Apocalypse were all commonly structured and scripted with a “threefold pattern of crisis, judgement, and salvation essential to apocalypticism.”2 This structure is similar to that of a dramatic piece of theatre, which also always has a crisis, judgement, and usually ends with catharsis. This connection reemphasizes the need to use presentation and imagination to ensure that the apocalyptic message gets ingrained in the reader mind.

Matthew Paris spoke of the coming of the Antichrist on many occasions in his chronicles. For instance, Paris wrote about the destructive actions of the Tartars of 1242-3, and made a connection to these actions with the end of world- "In these times also, on account of the terrible rumors of this kind, the following verses, declaring the coming of Antichrist, were spread about.”3 Many of these rumours were started by the Joachite movement, and spread around England. This movement, led by Abbot Joachim in the late middle ages, was based on Joachim's writings, and his belief that the apocalypse would take place in 1260. Unfortunately, because the Joachim's visions were expressed through either rumours or through his very complex and vague writings this date was debatable. There were people who said it was 1260 and there were some who believed 12504 There are many instances, where Joachim's visions of the coming of the Antichrist were written down in manuscripts, such as an inscription written in a bible owned by the Gilbertine house, which said:

According to the prophet Joachim,

When a thousand two hundred years and six decades

Have passed since the Virgin gave birth,

Then Antichrist shall be born full of the devil.5

This verse shows that this person believed that the end was coming in 1260, however, another manuscript commenting on Joachim's visions was found written by Bury St. Edmunds, which is similar to this previous one, but placed the end in 1250.6 By all accounts, these examples are only a small number of the written documentation on this subject matter.

Matthew Paris depicts the Apocolypse through both verse (as written above), but also through images. An example of these images is his drawing of the Nativity of Christ. This image depicts the birth of Christ, which for most contemporary people would represent the beginning of a new life- innocent, naive, pure, and full of hope. However, as Suzanne Lewis discusses in The Art of Matthew Paris, that because in the Christian middle ages there was a “closed historical chronology beginning with Creation and moving through clearly defined periods toward the Last Judgment at the end,” this is image is thus depicting the beginning of the end.7 This moment of new birth therefore loses that sense of hope and purity, for as Paris writes in the margins, “When twice six hundred years and fifty more. Are gone since blessed Mary's son was born, then Antichrist shall come full of the devil.”8 By all accounts, this marginality clearly represents the mindset of most people during this time- that their Earthly lives were about to be terminated and the world will soon be shrouded in darkness as the devil takes full reign of it.

1 Bernard McGinn Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 6.

2 McGinn, 6.

3 As quoted in Suzanne Lewis The Art of Matthew Paris (Berkley: University of California Press, 1987), 103.

4 McGinn, 158-9.

5 As quoted in Lewis., 104.

6 As quoted in Lewis., 104.

7 Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 102.

8 As quoted in Lewis., 102.